Archive for December, 2012

Project 10 Stage 2

In Stage 1 of the design process (blogged 22-Dec-2012) I reviewed my course work looking for connections to my theme of Ageing.  I’ve since been looking through my theme-book and now feel I have considerable clarity of what I want to work on.

* An exhibition piece. Given my theme is intensely personal I don’t want to use it as decoration on a functional item. I want to express emotion, to make visible something which is often invisible – extreme old age and the consequences of our platitudes and good intentions.

* Focus on an individual. So much of my reading and research has been about generalisations and statistics. I want to show something about this person – Nancy.

* Focus on a critical experience – loss of choice, trapped in intense physical and emotional pain. I’ve spent a lot of time in my theme-book thinking about happier memories, a rich life, the process of change and so on, but in the end I don’t want to soften or hide the reality of what we have forced upon this individual, what she suffers because of smug morals and outdated cultural and legal institutions.

Here is my “moodboard” of some core images selected from my themebook:


Top row, left to right: Edvard Munch, The Scream (source: ; a sculpture by Judith Scott (source:; Tadek Beutlich, Figures in Cocoons 2 (source: illustration in Mary Schoeser’s Textiles).

Second row, left to right: detail of Truth to Power by Adrienne Sloan (source:; Francis Bacon, Study for a figure at the base of a crucifixion (source: illustration in Francis Bacon five decades catalogue); Rodney Love, Silence (source:  Sensorial Loop catalogue)

Third row, left to right: Nathan Sawaya, Trapped (source; a sketch in oil pastels done for this Stage of the course.

Bottom: one of many sketches done following my visit to the Francis Bacon exhibition in Sydney (blogged 25-Nov-2012)

The Francis Bacon work is the core of my current ideas. Walking through the exhibition every scream I saw was Nancy’s, every cage her nursing home room. I didn’t have a clear idea of how to use the idea, despite my rather obsessive drawing (the version at the bottom of the photo shows the figure with its back to the window, just as Nancy had her back to the window following her recent stroke – highly symbolic to me). Then one afternoon I was looking through Mary Schoeser’s recently published Textiles to see if anything caught my eye for the theme. Judith Scott’s work on page 22, binding figures. It felt right – that sense of constriction and constraint. Just an hour or two later I was catching up on blog reading and came to Shipbuilding (, with photos and links for Scott’s work, including that bound up and distorted body shape. The other images in my photo have stories too, but not that body-blow impact.

There are many, many areas to be defined further:

* materials. I could wrap in yarns. I also have access to some of Nancy’s old clothing and it might be effective to use torn strips of that on the figure – perhaps being “overwritten” by drab institutional, or dark/sharp pain colours or red tape or… Would that blunt the metaphor of being bound up by society/culture, using her own choice of clothes?

* making the figure. The whole thing needs to go through the postal system four times, so there are constraints on size and weight, plus it should be reasonably sturdy. I also really want an arch in the back and a sense of tension, of struggle against the confines.

* the container. First there’s a question of shape. Coffin seems both too obvious and off-target – Nancy isn’t trying to escape from death. It could be a jail. I keep coming back to an earlier idea of a box of mementos, so shoebox size and proportions. The trapped figure needs to be visible and to remain the main focus of attention.

p8s2e2_03The sketch in the middle of the moodboard shows the spiky yarn I made in Project 8 (blogged 16-Sept-2012). I like the “red tape” (actually a paper yarn).

fabric_boardI also have a second mood board with lots of samples created during the printing and fabric manipulation experiments earlier in the course. Some of them are distorted and have holes, which could reveal the figure. Others are very light and see-through. At one point I considered using something more opaque and using lighting so that just the shadow of the figure could be seen, but the constraints of viewing under assessing and special requirements in a (hypothetical) exhibition rule that out. The printed fabrics suggest the option of including some text (eg “protecting the vulnerable”).

jackie_1jackie_2Jackie, another OCA student, used a really interesting process in her Project 8 ( Follow the link to her post to get all the detail, but the use of tyvek also holds possibilities for introducing text, and the addition of weaving as a technique is attractive/personal to me. The amount of disintegration (more metaphors?) would have to be controlled for visibility of the figure. How much needs to be suggested, how much displayed???

* colours. Orange is the major colour on the moodboard, but in the sketchbook pages I chose earlier there was a preponderance of black and purple, with just flashes of green and orange. As mentioned above the idea of legal red tape, and blood red keep returning, as does institutional drab.

sketch20121211_01* wrapping. In my earlier plan of a box of mementos I was thinking of a wrapping like the blanket on Nancy’s bed, smothering and hiding the individual, or the layers of assumptions and generalisations that need to unwrapped to reach the kernel and desires of the person. I liked the idea of discovery in viewing the work. I was concerned about how this could work both in a package for assessors and as displayed in an exhibition, and even considered making a short video (asking mum to be a “hand model”), showing the unwrapping of the box, the examination of the contents. In exhibition the blanket could be piled up behind perhaps.

While I was reviewing the themebook I jotted notes and reminders, including “Link elements. Edit – see the whole – give up bits you love if necessary”. It was the next day I realised this could mean giving up the wrapping. I suspect it distracts and weakens the idea rather than adding to it. Maybe. Probably.

The course notes ask for at least two large drawings based on the source material, and I certainly have that – see more in my sketchbook on 7-Dec-2012, 11-Dec-2012, 18-Dec-2012, 19-Dec-2012, 23-Dec-2012 and 26-Dec-2012. Next will be Developing Your Design.

Resources Accessed 26-Dec-2012

Bond, A. (ed) (2012) Francis Bacon: five decades. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales Accessed 23-Dec-2012 Accessed 23-Dec-2012 Accessed 7-Dec-2012 Accessed 21-Dec-2012

Exhibition catalogue (2011) Sensorial Loop: 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial 2011. Tamworth: Tamworth Regional Art Gallery Accessed 7-Dec-2012

Shoeser, M. (2012) Textiles: The art of mankind. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Project 10 Stage 1

The final Assignment and Project of this module begins! I need to design and make a textile piece – entire in itself or part of a larger piece (for example a panel that could be used on a jacket). This post is about the first of four Stages – 1: reviewing work so far (samples, sketchbook, techniques and processes); 2: focusing on my theme book about Ageing; 3: developing the design; 4: making the piece. The process is at least as important as the final work – probably more important. And we’re meant to start with an open mind, not hurrying to a decision on an end-product.

This is difficult, in large part because I’ve been collecting materials and thinking about my theme and potential textile work for so long. The first notes in my theme book are dated 26 March, almost 9 months ago! That first page was headed “Growing old gracefully” but the rest of the page was darker and “gracefully” has always been in inverted commas. The overarching theme of “Ageing” has developed over the months, together with my ideas of potential textile products. I now have a sharp focus on a particular element of my theme, and I have what I believe is a strong but not fully developed idea of a product. I need to challenge those ideas, to look for alternatives, to trust the process, let go and be open to significant or even total change. Not easy.

An open mind doesn’t mean an empty one. Some clusters of thoughts within the theme:
* reflecting on the past: memories, fading, nostalgia, a life well lived
* change and stages of life: perhaps exemplified by views – extensive, distance views through large windows; a small window, view into the neighbouring garden, the occasional bird in a tree; lying with back to the window.
* view(s) of the present: emotional: trapped, claustrophobic, invisible, passive, compliant; physical: pain, frailty, immobility; social: isolated, moments of connection; political: individual or symbol, personal choice. These are the aspects I am currently most interested in expressing.

When considering potential end product my mind is not entirely open. Given I have chosen a theme which is highly emotional charged for me, it seems very unlikely I would decide to turn it into a source of decoration on a functional item. The end result may take the form of a functional item, but that should be because it makes sense in terms of the theme to do so. Similarly I don’t want to choose a technique or material or process just because it is something I’ve enjoyed doing earlier in the course. I don’t want to trivialise something important to me, nor the life and experiences of Nancy – the individual who has been the focus of my thinking.

OK, baggage acknowledged if not dealt with, time to review sketchbooks and samples looking for connections and combinations which could lead to development of my ideas.

Strong emotion

Angrynewspaperpaper towelStamping - bottle tops, string, cardboard, comb and cancelled
Project 1 introduced mark-making expressive of emotions. Looking back I was drawn to a number of sketches which suggest sharp, jumbled, chaotic, vivid emotions.
p2s501aLater in the project were some spiky stitches using cretan stitch. The layers of stitch bottom right make me think of brains for some reason – lots of sparking synapses. That would be useful if I was following the line of Nancy’s failing health and series of strokes.

p3s4e1_02In project 3 there was more work on colour, marks and emotion, and it’s interesting to see “agitated” in the top of this image. There is repetition of some earlier colours as well as marks in this. In the same stage there was an exercise on identifying a colour mood or theme and making a “colour bag” as a “quick and direct way of creating a bridge between source material and textile work”. That’s definitely a technique I’ll need to do as part of this current development work.

Thinking of colour, I made a note to myself back on 27 July about the impact of a risky colour choice in a thread. It was a bit out of the main colour theme, but the small amount visible really added some subdued complexity. My working theory was to try to be bold in the early stages. If it doesn’t work it can be covered or adjusted somehow. Better than being bland.

p8s2e2_03The yarn second from left has a very effective agitated, emotional appearance. It’s from stage 2 of project 8 (blogged 16-Sept). One component is a rusty/blood red paper yarn, which could suggest “red tape”.

Traces and remnants
sketchbook20111031This rubbing of some glass ornaments (from Sketchbook 1) suggests to me some of the confusion and distortion of a faulty memory. Paper doiley used as stencil, dilute ink sprayMonoprintStencils and monoprints in assignment 1 left traces or memories of things. They could suggest the traces a person leaves behind them as they pass through life, or a fragile, fading memory. We try to hold onto the past, but it slips away from us.
p4s2_e3bIn project 4 there was some more stencilling. The characters and lettering suggest meaning that we can’t fully interpret, as well as providing more complex layering and patterning. There’s another example of stamping words in the emotion section above.
p5s3_r3_05p5s3_r3_10Some of the stamping and printing on fabric from project 5 stage 3 has effects I think would be very effective in suggesting fading and distorted memory.
p6s3_12I’m putting this bonded applique from stage 3 of project 6 here because for me it fits with the ideas of memory and traces. Since making it I’ve had the idea of stitching over it then distressing it – maybe rust dyeing, some sandpaper or other abrasion etc – to create an item in a box of memories.
p6_s4_slash17When I first blogged this sample here I wondered if it could work as a metaphor for an ageing mind, not so sharp any more, having trouble holding or grasping ideas and memories.

Light and shadow
sturt20sturt18In the class with Liz Williamson I became fascinated with the texture of light and shadows that can be exploited with textiles. This could also lead into layering, changing density, revealing and concealing. This could be used to suggest traces left by a life, or the fading of life and gathering of shadows, the sunset of our years, the mists of time. Alternatively there could be the attempt to see the person through the layers and in the light of our expectations and assumptions, or hiding and obscuring unpleasant realities, our future that we fear.
05s1_02p5s3_r3_13In project 5 (also here)I played with layering fabric, creating shadows, overlapping and different density of stamps.
p6_s4_gathering05In project 6 (starting here) I was very interested in the effect of light through samples. Reviewing this just now I was thinking of how different things look from different perspectives (or directions of light) – the individual’s experience, my projection of emotion onto an individual, generic pronouncements about “them” and “their needs” by people with concerns or beliefs/agendas to push…

Fragility and decay
p6s3_03p6s3_08In project 6 stage 3 I played with heat distressing various materials, creating effects that suggest fragility and decay. Some of these materials could also be useful in creating containers / traps where it is still possible to see what is inside.
p6_s4_gathering07Frayed, torn strips of cloth also give the impression of frailty and age. I’ve used torn strips to stitch (see some of the green stitching in a photo higher up), and here in a sample of gathering.
helen_macritchie_05At a workshop with Helen MacRitchie (blogged 15-Sept) I learnt this technique with machine stitching on scrim. Suggesting fragility, age and failing memory, I think this could be used in creating containers-with-visible-contents. It probably fits better with an earlier idea of a memory box, rather than the current “trap” concept. I could try including text in the structure, which could be interesting.

Traps / constraints
a4p8s2e4_01I’ve mentioned possibilities for this above, but this sample from project 8 (blogged 27-Sept) could work well, and certainly has the advantage of visibility of any contents.
a4p9s2_06In my first weaving sample (blogged 14-Oct) I made a couple of attempts at binding warp threads together. Loss of choice and personal control is a major part of my Ageing theme. I’ve been thinking about smothering blankets, and areas of binding/caging could work with that. There’s also the idea of a bound figure within the trap.


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December 2012

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